Badger coaches, players prepare for Final Four - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Badger coaches, players prepare for Final Four

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Badgers will play Kentucky Saturday night in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. Players and coaches said Monday that much of this week's schedule is being adjusted accordingly.

Head Coach Bo Ryan said, when the team arrives at the Final Four venue in Dallas, Texas, it will try to practice at times similar to the scheduled 7:49 p.m. tip off against the Wildcats.

Guard Josh Gasser said he and the rest of the Badger players will do their best to stay consistent in their routines while on the road.

"We're still going to practice the same way and Coach Ryan's going to do the same thing he always does," Gasser said.

"We're going to come prepared to practice like we always have," Gasser said.

Ryan said the greatest challenge facing his players is balancing academics with the hectic schedule of a deep, NCAA tournament run.

"The toughest part is getting our guys caught up with the classes that they missed and the classes they're going to miss this week," Ryan said. "So we've been spending more time getting that squared away than we have been on basketball with them."

Forward Sam Dekker said he was planning to make up a test on Tuesday. He said he and teammate Frank Kaminsky would also study together for one of their classes before departing for Dallas.

The basketball team's strength and conditioning coach, Erik Helland, said he too is adjusting his schedule to accommodate the rigors of a Final Four run.

Helland is in charge of putting players through conditioning drills and workouts beginning in the off season.

"In the off season... we're trying to take them out of where they normally would be. We're trying to get better," Helland said.

"During the season, for guys who are playing a lot of minutes, it's about maintaining their fitness levels," Helland said.

Helland said players still work out for up to four, 45-minute sessions each week during the season. But he adjusts the workout schedule based on the game calendar. NCAA tournament games tend to fall on Thursdays-Sundays, so Helland said he's been "front loading" the team's workout schedule each week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

"What we're looking for is being prepared for this scenario," Helland said, "being prepared late in the season when we get into these critical games."

"What's the point of training the whole off season if these new, physical capabilities we develop aren't available when we need them?" he said.

Helland is also responsible for ordering the team's meals on the road. Ryan joked at a news conference Monday that his strength and conditioning coach always orders extremely tasty salmon.

"You can't get better salmon than what he orders," Ryan said.

"The players have played a game, they're fatigued, they're broken down and we really need to re-generate them," Helland said. He said post game meals are ordered with "recovery" in mind.

Finally, Helland said traveling to different cities for games can take a toll on sleep schedules.

"You really have to encourage the guys to make sure they get adequate sleep," Helland said. "That's such an important part of the recovery process as well."

Ryan said adjusting to a new time zone in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds of the tournament, held in Anaheim, Calif., was a challenge. But the head coach said he's not as worried about the schedule in Texas.

"The last time I looked, (Dallas) was on the same time schedule as us," Ryan said.


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